CHAMPION - For the past 47 years, the Warren Lions Club has set aside one day each December to provide gifts and a holiday party for hearing-impaired children of the area.
On Tuesday, 25 hearing-impaired children in preschool through fifth grade received that holiday party with food, games, clowns, gifts and a visit from Santa Claus. The event was held at Champion Central Elementary School, where many of the children from Trumbull, Ashtabula, Geauga and Mahoning counties attend a hearing-impaired unit.
Rocky Rockwell of Warren, event coordinator with the Warren Lions, said hearing- and sight-related issues are two main fundraising efforts of the Lions.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Bob Coupland
Santa Claus presents Ian Burchett, 5, with Christmas gifts at Tuesday’s 47th annual Warren Lions Club holiday party for hearing-impaired children held at the Champion Central Elementary School. The party included activities, clowns and lunch.
''Every year we hold this Christmas party for the children. The children prepare their Christmas lists ahead of time and send them to me,'' said Rockwell, who has organized the event for more than 40 years.
Rockwell said his daughter, Michele Rubenstein in Columbus, helps him with the toy purchases and brings them to the party.
''She is our help and does most of the Christmas toy purchases,'' he said.
Rockwell said the teachers of hearing impaired also prepare a list of needed school supplies, which the Lions help purchase.
Rubenstein started with the club as an elf with Santa when she was 12.
''I enjoy helping and seeing the smiles on the children's faces,'' she said.
Lions Club President Jeff Eacoma, who stayed busy portraying the party's surprise guest, said hearing-related issues, just as sight, have always been a main focus of the Lions Club.
Each child, whether eagerly or shyly, approached Santa, sat on his lap and then was given a gift bag, which included a teddy bear.
AJ Namish, second grade, said he likes Santa Claus and had fun at the party. He signed ''thank you'' to Santa after receiving his gift.
Instructors of the students indicated they had been excited all day about the visit.
''This is certainly a highlight of the year for the Lions Club and for the children. It's one of our ways to give back to the children,'' club member Gary Ingstrom said.